We left early in the am. To see the small fishing huts villagers use we need daylight. The trip south again was mostly by motor. We had a sail up for a few short bursts. Nothing long term. The dinghy was on the davits and the Tiller Pilot was running the wind vane; minus the wind.
We set self steering up this way because 1) it was cheaper and 2) still to this day I don’t like any of the wheel steering autopilots. We had purchased a Raymarine wheel steering Autopilot once but sold it in Tonga to some friends that were in desperate need. The Tiller Pilot works fine. When there is no wind and we run the engine any power drain is irrelevant.
We’ve avoided all the fishing shacks and are getting closer to Ambon. Rounding the point we slid into the harbor. Here we found a place with no coral and a mud sand bottom. And, it was only 10 m deep. The first order of business, relax, we’re in a good place. We’re planning to hang here a few days. From this point on we are in easy range of Ambon. My anxiety level has dropped … considerably.
In the am we dropped and outfitted our dinghy. It is not like backing the car out of the garage. We ease the dinghy down missing the wind vane, put the plug in so it doesn’t fill with water and release the lifts. Then, secured we are able to lower the engine down, secure it, add the fuel tank and hose. Once complete, we are ready to go. Luckily, the water was flat. Launching and outfitting the dinghy was easy.
That evening a group of HS boys swam out to the boat. We weren’t that far from shore but still… far enough. In their limited English and our almost non existent Indo we discovered that they are on the swim team in HS.
No females. And as I think back we see very few women swimming. In Sarong at the Marina / Hotel, women would get in the pool and wade around. But as for swimming, none. 🙁 As the Sun sets the guys return to shore. Night was comfortable and the sleep good.
We motored to shore and there were heaps of motorcycles wanting to take us around. They are mini taxi’s, called Ojeks. Two of them assisted us in finding a spot for the dinghy. We hired them to take us around for some errands. Faddle was the main guy and he had some limited English. Enough that we could get across what we need to do. We used Faddle every day we were there.
While completing the first days tasks I spotted a Tennis court. Seemed like it was in good shape and we stopped to check it out. With Faddle’s help we discovered that play begins around 3 pm. I set about to see if I could get a few games. At 3 pm I was at the court. Not courts. And there was a maintenance man cleaning the leaves off. I waited. I hit a bit on the small wall. I hit some serves. I hit some forehands and backhands down the court. And I waited. By 5 pm no one had shown up and the maintenance man wanted to lock up. Disappointed, I called Faddle and he took me back to Elysium.
The last few days were adding to our supplies, picking up our laundry, and a little sight seeing. We ate at a lovely restaurant and had what is best described as a seafood boil. We ordered Crab and the restaurant covered the table with paper. When the meal arrived they dumped everything on the paper.
We picked through for the goodies and enjoyed some delicious seafood. But, for me, it wasn’t my stye. I’m not a finger food person and the work to pick a crab; is well, work.
Faddle took us to a smallish hill overlooking the town and harbor then we swung down to a lovely beach. Faddle really, really wanted to show us this beach. After 14 years cruising I am beached out.
We see them all the time, we spend a great deal of time on beaches and one more was a bit so -so. It was lovely. It was to me; just another beach. Back to the harbor and boat we went; there preparing for our last leg heading to Ambon.
We left Labuha in the dark and planned on multiple day hops. Sad that Indonesia requires the two month check ins. Sad because we would have spent more time in a village or two along the way.
We arrived, anchored, slept and left again the next day. We happened upon another mining island. Unbeknownst to us. With enough fuel we were again motoring. Around the west side of Obi I had spotted a couple of good looking anchorages on the charts. As we headed down that coast a HUGE industrial complex peeked out from the bay. Getting closer several barges came into view. Oh-oh! Not again. After having been at Gebe and in Raja Ampat; two extremes in Indo, this came as a surprise. There was no sign on the charts nor any in Zulu Waterways from other cruisers. There is now a notation, I put one there. We thought one of the bays I identified would be fine.
They weren’t. The first bay had a barge leaning on the shore, a reef extending out to the middle and a local fishing boat anchored. They anchored where we would have liked to be. We went to check out the second spot. It too was filled with commercial craft and several local boats hanging around the S shore. We motored in getting a closer look and found it was way to deep. We turned around and went to check out the third bay. The S shore was lined with barges, the river feeding the bay which usually has a good place to anchor was deep and didn’t feel right. Then there was a wharf for commercial loading too. We’d been motoring back and forth now for about 45 minutes. Time to decide.
We were only staying overnight. We went to the first bay and dropped the hook in 25 m of water. We sat a bit close to the fishing boat. The winds were not expected to change. What wind there was was slight. And I thought the current would be the primary mover. Later that day one of the commercial boats left. That helped. The locals on the fishing boat kept an eye on us and we on them, making sure the boats stayed apart. We survived the day and the evening. The next am we pulled anchor heading south.
Again the motor was on. Fishing lines out. No luck on the fish, none either on the winds. We rounded the point and came into Namlea. We were close enough to Ambon now, one or two days away depending on how hard we wanted to work, that we could spend some time here.
The path from Gebe was uneventful. We couldn’t make it to Labuha in one day so as the dark gave way to the dawn we looked for a place to anchor. Songlines had told us of a lovely quiet place. The problem with pre covid info is that some areas have seen a dramatic change.
As we pointed Elysium towards our chosen anchorage a city of bouys came into view. Hundreds of them littered the fairway. Weaving through them might be dangerous. Our prop could wind up one of the bouy lines, stopping the engine. We would then be slaves to any currents. Sails could help but that would be no guarantee towing a bouy and anything connected to it. For a boat, land is NOT our friend. We stayed on the fringe of the city of bouys and found a spot to anchor on the edge of a reef. I dove the anchor to ensure it was in a good spot. And as winds and tides change I wanted to keep Elysium off any coral bommies rising off the bottom.
We were secure, relaxed, and recovering from the night passage. Late in the afternoon an Indonesian war shipped contacted us. They wanted our yacht info. No problem. But the first radio officer I couldn’t understand. After a bit of back and forth a second officer with better English asked us several questions. With all in order they moved on. In the am we were off again, motoring. 🙁
The next anchorage looked very comfortable; on the chart. Again one of our sailing friends had said how nice it was. We found a spot, dropped the hook and rolled. Side to side. While the sea didn’t have white caps there was a swell working its way straight into the harbor. For one night we could tolerate it. If we were here longer we would put out a flopper stopper.
Morning again, the engine started and off we went. Not waiting till breakfast was over. The roll was not fun. We nibbled on the way. Today we would reach Labuha, connect back to the world, get fuel and some fresh food. I had two fishing lines out and it was quiet.
As we approached the final turn to Labuha we hooked a fish. A big fish. W/ reeled in the second line and I grabbed the one with the fish on it. I increased the drag and he kept ripping more line out. I fought it, brought some line in and he ripped more out. At one point he had all my line ( well over a 100 meters) and I felt like he would break it and be on his way. I was able to real a little in and he pulled out less. I reeled and he pulled. But, I was making progress. He was getting closer to the boat. A couple of times he jumped trying to free himself and I saw him. We hooked a sailfish. Wow! As I worked him closer to the boat I saw how big he was. My size. Not good. But, exciting. 45 minutes later he was a couple meters off the boat. There was still some fight in him.
After W/ had reeled in the second line she had slowed Elysium to a crawl. I’m not sure who was winning, the diesel on the boat or the fish pulling us backwards. It didn’t matter.When he was near the boat both of us knew he was too big to attempt to get aboard. W/ grabbed a camera; sorry it didn’t capture him close enough to the surface for an honest photo. She also grabbed a scissors to cut him free. He was still alive but real, real tired. Damnit, I was losing one of my new favorite lures. No way I was going to retrieve it. W/ cut the line. Our excitement ended, ever so slowly the sailfish swam off. We increased our throttle heading again towards Labuha.
In retrospect, and for next time. W/ will get the spear gun and when we get it close enough I can spear him. Then together we can get him aboard. Now I know some of you might be thinking what would we do with all that meat. We would take a slab for ourselves and give the rest to the Indonesians. We were only a few hours away from the town and that would have fed a lot of people. Plus making some new friends. But I was full of adrenaline and not thinking. Anyway, we now have another story to tell.
Labuha ’s Anchorage wasn’t the best. It was open to all points West and North. However, this time there was zero wind and for 4 days we had a comfortable anchorage only bothered by the five times a day call to prayer. We’re actually getting used to much of it. But here, one Mosque had some bad speakers and the sound from it was ear shattering. And, all the Mosques have loud speakers. Quite often we have 3, 4, or 5 Mosques speaking at once. On top of the LOUD chanting none of them are synchronized. Many off set by seconds or minutes. On top of that, after the calls to prayer there appears to be some “wailing”; not pleasant.
As we were preparing to head S towards Ambon the following day, a new swell emerged and began rolling us side to side. Not fun. Again, we could put up with it… for a night. At 4:00 am the Mosque with the bad speakers began the call to prayer. Time to go. Awakened from a sound sleep we chose to leave; now. We picked up anchor and headed out in the dark with our boat lights on and a handheld spot light.
The local fisherman don’t have lights on their boats. But they all carry a spot light. If they see or hear a boat coming their way they shine a light on them. We shine one back indicating that we know they are there. Once acknowledged, all is good. Two hours to go and we’ll have light. The engine is churning over doing its job and the sails still furled. The Sun breaks the horizon. We need to get to Ambon for our 2nd visa renewal. Time marches on.
Finally, we had a sail up! Sadly, the motor is still on. (
We’re heading to Gebe. Once we passed out of Raja Ampat waters I dropped a fishing line in. A few minutes later we hauled in a Rainbow Runner. At least that is how it seemed. Food for a few meals. Sweet.
Had we chosen to go around the N end of Gebe we could have sailed and not motor sailed. We had thought, I mainly, that rounding the S end and then coming up the lee side would be an easier, safer way to approach the anchorage. Passing the southern tip we had good internet for 20 minutes or so. Telkomsel says the island has data only with the SIM card. Don’t believe it! But the town was another story.
Finding a decent yacht anchorage in Indonesia is NOT easy. Rock and coral bottoms abound. A lot of the bottom (up to 30 m depth) with coral heads and most really deep, 20-30m (around 70’-100’). For a yacht anchoring, we need a long chain rode. If the chain catches on something on the bottom I will have a difficult time recovering it and the anchor. I was lucky at Kawe. I won’t always be that lucky.
And more than loosing the chain and anchor, it is next to impossible to replace it in Indonesia. The cost of receiving yachting goods in Indonesia usually equals the cost of the goods. Customs plus shipping. Indonesia dos NOT recognize “Yacht in Transit” declarations.
So , we look to anchor in somewhere between 10-20 meters. To complicate matters more, the underwater geology is like the above water geology. Steep slopes. Anchoring near shore with the amount of chain needed in deep water will, with squalls, put us dangerously close to shore. Or worse case up on the shore. Neither of which we wish for.
We found a spot near the main wharf. That spot lead to an uneasy night. A squall came through and we were closer to shore and a pier than I was comfortable with. But, we did survive. The following day we launched the dinghy to take a look-see. We had only planned on two days here and then moving on. Mother Nature does not like sailors making plans.
We tooled around the next am looking for a parking place for our dinghy. As we passed the main wharf the harbor master waved us over and wanted to see our documents. Ah – ha! I had thought ahead and took photos of them before we even got in the dinghy. But, those were not good enough. He wanted to see the originals. I think he really wanted to see the boat. So we hauled him to the boat and he checked our docs. Of course all were in order. And we told him what we needed in supplies.
He said he would help and that he did. He showed us where to tie the dinghy up and escorted us into town. There we bought more supplies. He begged off and we made our way back to the boat on our own. Odd for us, we didn’t feel the welcome here we had other places. However, there was an interest in why two white people were walking around town. This is a mining island. I had wondered why there wasn’t any yacht reports about it.
After hearing that only a few yachts visit, later that day another yacht (Songlines) pulled in. A rarity according to the Harbor Master. They anchored on the other side of the harbor away from the town. One more squally threatening night pushed us to move too, to the other side of the harbor. We stayed well away from the half dozen barges moored and actually found a spot in about 15 m of water that seemed to have good holding. I was closer to shore than I wished, but the wx the last couple of days indicated that no significant winds would blow out of the east. That evening we invited Lindsey and Sharon over for some sea stories. Earlier we had told them where to tie the dinghy and they even found a restaurant they liked. Still, we didn’t return to town. Songlines left the next day heading to Sarong. We decided to head to the S bay where another mining loading point is. There we could prep for leaving the following day. Also as we had good internet going by the S side, we hoped it was in that harbor.
The bay was calm and we found a nice quiet spot inside the reef. Barges wouldn’t be getting close. They couldn’t fit between the reef nor over it. Sadly when we passed by the two southern bays I thought both had good internet. This one doesn’t. Looks like the Iridium Go satellite network will be getting a work out. That and we’ll do a lot of reading.
The next day didn’t look good for leaving. Nor the following day, nor… Well, you get the idea. We stayed there longer than we wanted. Most of a week. We were hoping to head WSW and the winds were blowing WSW. They were not strong, but strong enough and out of the west. Winds alone wouldn’t have been an issue but it was the seas that they create. This results in constant spray and the boat pausing; not comfortably, as we crash into each of them. Tacking wasn’t in the cards. Currents here can make tacking to windward unpredictable. To make the miles we needed to begin at night. Had we tried to sail and tack, once we add in the weird currents we could have turned a 12-15 hour trip into a 48 hour one. Again, not to our liking. We would wait. For sailors; patience is really a virtue.
After finishing another couple of the Lucas Davenport books, making water, lazing around, we felt we had a day to make hay. I mean head towards Labuha. Morning broke and instead of the usual one barge in the harbor there were three. One was hanging off a tug and floating in the center of the harbor. We had our track in through the reef so we could follow it out. And that barge was blocking our path. W/ with my urging got closer to the barge than she wants and we squeaked by. I say squeaked by but we were a good 10-15 m from it. Clearing the barge we made our way out of the harbor.
And we didn’t make hay in the direction we wanted to go. The winds were down but the seas still up. Bouncing along with spray in our face all night was not in our future. Plan B. We headed back the coast towards town. We arrived at Gebe after two more hours and the anchor spot we had, that we liked was now close to a barge hanging behind a tug. I chose a spot I thought was far enough away. The barge being close to 200’+ , then include an ocean going tug another 75’ or so plus the line securing the barge and any anchor rode out, that thing will circle close to one kilometer. That is a hell of a lot of space.
We seemed ok at first. Then the tide switched. And here the tide overrode the wind. The barge started swinging and missed us. I watched closely. As the day wore on I was concerned when the tide switched again it would swing differently and take us with it. We moved. First to the city side by the wharf. Dropping the hook and attempting to set it, was pointless. All the anchor did was slide around on the bottom never digging in. Back across to the other side. We moved even farther away from where I had liked and dropped the hook in 15 m of water. We caught on something and I felt we were secure in this weather and far enough from the barge, tug setup.
We waited two more days before the wind and seas again looked settled. Then, as the Sun set we picked up the anchor and headed WSW. The seas were more benign, the only wind we had was what the boat made and we were happier. Not great as we were burning diesel but we are now on a slight schedule. We need to get to Ambon for our Visa renewal. On our path Ambon is about 300 nautical miles away. We’re doing our best to avoid night sailing. Labuha is 1/3 the way and there I hope to add some diesel, pick up some fresh vegetables, and connect back up to the world.
Across the globe, or from next door. People come to Raja Ampat for the universe above and below the water. And on top of Raja Ampat lies Wayag (Pronounced Why-aa) . We left Kawe (Equator Island) traveling to Wayag. A short hop; about 3 hours away by a slow boat.
The mountains rise out of the sea like green covered spear points. Surrounded by huge pots of mushrooms. We skirted the shore and entered on the SW side. For the most part the seas were flat and we could read the colors of the water for the depth. We only had one detour to stay in deep water before we approached the entrance.
We always check the cruising community when we head to new places. For Indonesia we use online blogs, a Compendium put together by Soggy Paws, and Zulu Waterways. We knew where to go and how to get there. Yet even with the fore knowledge, entering a new harbor always carries with it some anxiety.
We followed the guide I don’t like: Andi Scott’s Cruising Indonesia. We anchored off the picturesque beach in the deepest part of area. Shown in the guide to be primo. Not so. Go Figure! Oh, there are much deeper places in Wayag, but this was to be “the” spot. Craig and Leanne found a much nicer place near the East end. But, it had a shallow bar to cross. Once anchored and secure we rarely pick up the anchor and move.
We settled in, put up our awning, dropped the dinghy and put on the engine, and had lunch. Craig and Leanne stopped by to give us an update. What’s where. Fumi and Luke came in and as cruisers often do we planned on a beach gathering tomorrow evening. Craig had been cleaning up the beach near them and had a bit more to do. W/ volunteered us so tomorrow we assisted in the final clean up.
While this is one of the prettiest places in the world it is also one with… a lot of trash. Referred to in Indonesia as the King’s Crown. Trash on the beach and in the water. We were lucky, while here we saw very little water trash floating by. But, other cruisers had told us of the river of trash. Not all from Indonesia as the trades blow anything in the South Pacific this way.
The following day we joined Craig on the beach head and placed heaps of rubbish in a large tin bin. We talked about having a BBQ in the evening and burning some. That evening we had a fire and one of the rangers stopped by.
He didn’t have any issue with us having a BBQ on the beach and when we told him that we cleaned it up I will say he was impressed. So much so that some photos were taken of the tin (rubbish) in the bin! In rudimentary English; I with my next to non existent Bahasa, I got the idea that some of his people would be by the following day to bag it. They would then send it back to Sarong for disposal. When I relayed that story to some of the tourist boat employees, for the most part they laughed.
No one calls me an optimist but I held out hope. And the following day…. nothing happened. The next day too, nothing happened. What can I say.
There were hikes to the summit of two different mountains in Wayag. One was really tough while the other was much easier. The easier one had a 360º view. The harder one not. Guess which one we choose? And, it wasn’t all that easy. True Blue V and Elysium dinghied over to the trail head at high tide. It shoots up from the waterline. Starting at high tide makes the beginning ascent easier.
Here we were lucky again, a large tender from one of the tourist boats was already there. The captain offered for us to cross over it instead of attempting to climb out of our dinghy and up the cliff’s side. We tied our dinghy off and climbed across.
We made a mistake. Our shoes were not meant for this trek. We wore tennis shoes. Had we worn our hiking boots it would have been a better option. Also neither of us had any gloves. Any further visitors reading this; bring gloves and hiking boots! With the steep incline we often needed to grab the rocks. These islands are eroded limestone and the rocks were sharp. Heaps with hollow porous areas. Leaning against one I received a small cut on my leg. It bled. Picking our way we worked our way up. The tourist boats or the park had installed a few ropes to assist. No ladders here. And I didn’t count the steps. I was to intent on leaning inward and staying upright. The rocky slope would act like a cheese grater should either of us go tumbling down
the hill. Thirty minutes or so, maybe more I doubt less, we reached the summit. There we came across a group of tourists with their guides. I checked out their footwear. One of the guides had bare feet. If I had tried the climb in bare feet my feet by the time I reached the top would have been skinless.
The view was worth it. We could see 360º ! We chatted with everyone we could. One tourist couple; from Jakarta, had attended college in Georgia and been to Tampa. As we travel we are often reminded how small and intimate the world is. And…. the tourist guides (Not the park rangers) actually picked up some trash they found on the trail. They understand the value of the Raja Ampat resource!
You would think descending would be easier. NOT! One wrong step, one misplaced hand and more of my DNA would be left on the island. With hiking boots and gloves we would have been fine. We could lean on the ropes and watching our step move much easier. The problem now were traffic jams. People were still ascending as we were descending. This wasn’t a trail made in Australia or New Zealand, with wide paths and a well cared for trail. We were in Indonesia! We looked for places where we could
stand aside to let others pass. Thinking ahead about where to pass, listening for the exertions of the group ascending we make do. With our tennis shoes and no gloves we were so slow that one group passing us going up caught up to us going down! Well, we were almost all the way down anyway. 🙂
After burning those calories we needed “a feed” as the Aussies like to say. The afternoon was R n R. Two other boats entered the area and discussions centered around where to go
snorkeling and the ranger station. There was internet at the ranger station. Without internet we would use our Iridium Go for weather. But, with internet I could get podcasts and a couple of books I neglected to download. A couple of times I ran to the ranger station just for internet. One thing I forgot to do was down load extra podcasts. We like to listen to world NEWS in the am making sure there is nothing we need to concern ourselves with. While in Raja Ampat a Volcano blew up a few hundred miles from us. We didn’t know it at the time. Fortunately we didn’t have any effect from it. So I ran over to the station and downloaded a few days worth. I had also discovered that I had missed a few books I had purchased in the Lucas Davenport series. (A great read by the way). So off to the station I went.
Sharing info with other boats we sussed out where the coolest place(s) would be to snorkel. Now don’t get me wrong, we enjoy snorkeling. However, having been in French Poly, the Cook Islands, the Bahamas, the Galapagos, Panama, etc we are not as enamored with diving as we once were. We heard about the Superman Snorkel. On the N side of the island during an incoming tide you could float with your dinghy. A great 45 minute ride through a pass into the lagoon. That we did. It was enjoyable. Like most of our snorkeling around the world it was great. It just did not stand out above any of the other “great” places. I often ask people when they are describing a snorkel spot; does Ms. France look prettier than Ms. Argentina?
That evening we gathered at another cruisers yacht and had a good time sharing sea stories. It was quite a gathering, two Americans (us), one Canadian with his Jamaican wife, one Aussie with his Japanese partner, one German couple with their adult son and his Peruvian partner. After we solved all the problems of the world we retired to Elysium. As it was the New Year about to begin some of the tourist boat lit off a few fireworks. And as any cruiser will tell you, 9 pm is the new Midnight. Any fired at midnight we did not see or hear.
After a few more days hanging around it was time to head out. A real negative of cruising Indonesia is that every two months we need to be at an Immigration office to renew our visas. Indonesia is HUGE. The immigration offices are not on every island. For a sailor; that means with good weather they might be 5 days away. Add to the challenge, sailing at night is a risk. True Blue V hit a tree floating in a few 1,000 m’s of water. A tree! They ran right up on it and Craig said it was like running aground. As far as 30 nm off shore in again 1,000’s of m’s of water are unlit fishing huts. They seem to float around there and at times the local villagers use them. Being unlit and rather large, it would not be pleasurable hitting one. We are quite cautious while night sailing and do our best to avoid even the need to do it. With that in mind we planned on heading off to Gebe the following day. About 50 nm away. If all goes well, we’ll make it during daylight.
There are other islands and land masses that the Equator passes through. This island is on our path and I had a desire to straddle the Equator, standing in both hemispheres at the same time. In Fiji I straddled the International Date line having one foot into today and the other into yesterday. Who knows, it could have been one foot into today and the other tomorrow. I guess it depends on perspective. 🙂 Nothing miraculous happened. Not lighting, no moments of wisdom, I didn’t rise up to the heavens, nor was I sucked down to the nether world. It was only something I wished to do. And for a few moments I stood there.
After leaving Pef we motored; yes again, north to Kawe and anchored in the Northern Hemisphere. We hadn’t had Elysium in the N. Hemisphere for 8 years. Cruising in Raja Ampat we would cross the equator a couple more times.
It was an easy motor until we reached the water between Equator Island and PNG. There we experienced the most current against us we’ve had in our travels. I had hoped it was temporary and caused by a large bay emptying into the passage. It was not. About 4 knots against us making our forward progress the speed of a baby’s crawl. What ought to have taken one hour required 4 more. All the time listening to the drone of our motor.
We arrived behind True Blue V and attempted to drop the hook in 5 meters with what the cruising guide written by Andy Scott described as a sand mud bottom. I don’t like that this guide has been wrong more than right. 🙂 The anchor slid around the bottom like it was on concrete. When I raised it to re anchor I snagged a piece of coral.
Two years earlier a Croc was reported to be hanging around this anchorage. I wasn’t keen on entering the water to free the anchor. We didn’t see the Croc and as luck would have it we broke the anchor free and I hauled it aboard. We moved to deeper water on the other side of True Blue V.
There again I felt we had dropped the anchor on concrete. But this time I had enough chain down such that I felt the weight alone would act liker a mooring. There was no wind blowing through this bay. And we did hold for a good 24 hours.
The following day True Blue V left for Wayag and we hung around. There was an Equator marker on another chunk of land here. That was the place I could be in the N and S hemisphere
simultaneously. After breakfast W/ and I would head over in our dinghy.
It wasn’t perfect, the weather. A swell was beginning to roll in and finding a place for the dinghy ashore was a bit of an issue. We were not planning on spending much time here. A quick trip to the marker, some photos and back. Where we left the dinghy with a building swell could be problamatic. W/ didn’t want to climb up to the marker for her own “ah ha” moment. It was then back to the dingy and back to the boat.
As the swell began building, launching the dinghy was a bit tricky. We needed to get it out to deep enough water, drop the engine, start the engine keep the bow into the waves and avoid any breaking water. I pushed and pointed it off shore while W/ jumped in. As one almost breaking wave passed under us, I jumped in dropped the motor and pulled the cord. We got it started in time and were moving away from the coast and marker. It was close. But; we made it. Back to the boat for a lovely afternoon. It was not to be.
At the boat the winds started building and cresting over the Western side of the harbor. We set the anchor watch and I used various markers on shore to watch for dragging. We moved, but not a lot. And we were moving down the middle of the fairway. We would stop, swing, move a bit repeat. At some point it appeared we stopped moving. We could hear the chain dragging across the “fake” mud sand bottom. That meant is was a hard coral bottom with some bommies here and there. Finally with the boat stopped my anxiety went down. Anxiety was not zero because tomorrow we planned head over towards the high lite in Raja Ampat, Wayag. I knew a bottom with some coral could mean a problem raising the anchor.
Now to be fair, we’ve been in many places that had coral bottoms. And while we don’t like to anchor in coral there are times it is impossible to avoid. Had I been a bit smarter I would have stayed near the narrow end of the harbor and tied lines to both shores. But I wasn’t and here we would pay the price. Usually as we raise the anchor the chain can get stuck on some coral pieces. We wiggle the boat, heading left or right and 99/100 times the chain pops off and we continue to pick it up. We were in 50’ -60’ of water and things were going pretty well. We had a brief scare and the chain broke free and I continued to bring it aboard. All until the last 20 m (60 feet). I tightened the chain up and W/ inched the boat forward and backwards. She moved the rudder to starboard and then to port. Nothing seemed to affect what we had caught on. Now we have a problem.
Yanking on short chain is a sure way to break something. I’m not interested in breaking anything! And I don’t want to break the chain and leave our anchor and chain there. One thing left to do. Get wet. Yuck!
In the past I might have been able to free dove to 20 meters but I’ve not been diving much and 20 meters is a long, long way down. We did think ahead a few years ago and purchased a hookah unit. That is a compressor that allows us to dive one atmosphere or around 10 meters deep. We can then hang around down there for long periods of time. I usually use it when I clean the boat bottom. At least I can get down far enough to see which way we need to go to untangle ourselves. We haul out the system and set everything up.
I get my mask, fins and snorkel on and jump in. W/ passes me the hose with the regulator and away I go. Hand over hand I go down the anchor chain. Now I’m not worried anymore about a possible croc hanging around. I don’t know if Crocs like bubbles or if I could keep the anchor chain between it and I. In the end I doubt I would even see one coming. Crocs can be sneaky. But, crocs are now not my major concern.
I use the chain to descend and at about 10 m I see how we are stuck. The anchor is laying on the bottom but the chain has sliced a nice groove into a piece of coral that hangs out like a petal of a flower. It is an effective chain hook. No matter which way we pull, the chain hook seems to be holding. I surface and discuss with W/ what I saw. We can’t move the boat any direction as it will still be in the coral chain hook. I’m not happy but I’m getting some boosts of adrenaline.
The plan: I’ll dive to the limit of the hookah. Take one last good breath and free dive the last 10 meters or so. There I’ll try to pull the chain out of the coral chain hook. I do that. I fail. Returning to the surface exhaling all the way. I exhale all the way because I was breathing compressed air at 10 m. The last thing either of us needs is for me to get an air embolism. Why I didn’t stop at the regulator and slow down I don’t know. Again we discuss the situation.
The next thing we choose to do is to run a line down and around the anchor. Then put it on a winch and haul the anchor off the bottom. We hope pulling on the anchor will free the coral chain hook. W/ digs out an old halyard and hands me the bitter end. The halyard is about 45 m. She lays out line so I have enough to run down around the anchor and back up to the boat. I slowly descend along the chain again. At 10 meters I leave the regulator and free dive the last 10 meters, run the line through the anchor and back up to the surface. If you have never been 20 meters underwater just know that it is a long way down and up. At the surface she takes the bitter end and runs it back to a winch. She cranks on the line putting tension on it lifting the anchor off the bottom. I grab the my regulator and descend to see the results. I’m not down long. As she lifts the anchor off the bottom the weight of the chain is no longer locking it into the coral chain hook. I can’t believe it, the chain simply falls off the coral and we are free. I ascend and; she would say yelling, tell her to hit the switch to retrieve the chain. Once the chain and anchor are well off the bottom I swing back aboard to finish the job.
We were lucky there was no wind or significant swell running into the harbor. The rest of the retrieval was routine.
Moving again W/ and I alternated packing up, putting stuff away and moving to our next Anchorage. Wayag! The top of Raja Ampat.
We had anchored in a lovely cove down in Waterfall Bay. We had taken our dinghy here when we visited earlier and checked out the waterfall. Since we have our new immigration stamps we are free again to travel. On our way N we figured, hell, let’s
stop there for the night. The anchorage was perfect, calm, 30’ feet deep with mud bottom, and full of jungle sounds. All followed by a magical morning.
We started off to Pef but chose instead to head to Gam. Some cruising friends were there. It wasn’t really out of our way N. It would give us a couple of days to catch up with them and chill out on the hook.
Traveling Indo by yacht is not an easy adventure. First off, charts are not accurate
and second currents are outrageous. We would often be traveling 9 kts and then other times 4 kts. That without changing any engine speeds! We could be heading 170 degrees and 5 seconds later the current would push us around to 150 degrees. While that was not dangerous if you were paying attention it could be trouble if not.
Where ever reefs or shallows were I generally gave them a wide berth. Usually 1,000 ft or more. However in traveling to Gam there were some areas to weave our way through. One weave didn’t work as planned. The chart indicated we had plenty of room W of the reef. 40’ of water. I don’t worry when we have 40′ of water below us traveling at 6 kts. Six knots doesn’t sound all that fast. Not until you understand you have a 36,000 lb boat sliding through the water. It is NOT like stopping a car on asphalt. More like stopping one in snow or ice.
The water looked a little green ahead. Green water is shallow water. Bright green water is shallower water. Brown green water is super shallow water with coral. I
climbed out of the cockpit and jumped up on the mast pulpit. This gives me extra height to see clearer into the water. With my height and polarized sunglass my eyes leapt out of my head! “Wendy – REVERSE! She heard something but wasn’t sure. I yelled a second and a third time. By the third time she had the propellor spinning backwards and the boat was slowing. Not stopping quick enough. I yelled more, MORE. And she increased the throttle.
I had seen what first appeared to be a log or two floating in the water up ahead. Upon closer inspection both were parts of coral piercing the water surface. We need 6’ or almost 2 meters of water to float and move. Any less than that will cause damage and a huge headache. As we slowed I saw a huge coral boulder off the bow. When we had finally stopped I thought from the bowsprit I could touch it. W/ still had Elysium in reverse and we began backing away from a near disastrous morning. W/ said the depth sounder indicated we had 2’ under the keel when we finally stopped. In one boat length we would have been hard aground. And on a falling tide! Whew that was close.
We made our anchorage about noon as a nice tropical rain cooled things off. As luck had it we were in line with a cell tower and in 25’ of water over a coral sand bottom. I put out close to 100’ of chain and an 80 lb spade anchor. The weather has been rather benign the last couple days. We were hot and figured that while here we would put up our awnings. We ate lunch, then went to visit cruising friends on True Blue V. We had another nice tropical rain and chatted about how” not” easy cruising Indonesia is; the charting and the two month immigration check ins being the biggest PITA. In some immi offices one can complete the paper work in an afternoon. In others it takes three days! As for the charts we shared some of our “not fun” moments.
After a bit the wx took on a mean, ugly look. Tropical showers be damned, this was going to be a mess. Our awnings were up. We chose this moment to run back to our boat and run we did. As we reached Elysium the tropical rain turned torrential with winds to match. We were going to lift the dinghy out of the water and as we did the wind struck. Anchoring in sand and coral is not the best. As an aside, it is next to impossible to find large sand / mud patches for anchoring in. As I said the weather had been benign but not now. The boat started dragging. Fortunately no yachts were behind us. And any shallow water / land not threatening. We waited and watched. The anchor caught something, the boat turned to the wind as it ought to and all seemed good … for the moment.
The dinghy was bouncing on the side and I decided ease the lift a bit. The line slipped and the dinghy flipped sideways. It had never done that before. (Later checking the engine did damage our paint a wee bit). The wind and waves didn’t help. I was able to right it and readjust it. All the while W/ and I cold and wet. I pulled down our forward awning while W/ managed the helm. We were ready to re-anchor, if needed. The wind switched again and we yanked on the anchor from the a different direction. The boat swung sideways (indicating that the anchor did not hold ) and we started off again. Time to pull the anchor in.
While W/ worked to head the boat into the wind I used the windlass to wind up the anchor and chain. Fortunately we had water room. But, I had to go below twice to knock the pile of chain down. If we have a lot of chain out when we bring it back aboard the chain likes to stack up in the locker. Once it reaches the top of the locker I can’t bring anymore in. I take a boat hook, run below; soaking wet, and knock the stack down. Then back on deck to haul more in. I needed to do this twice while W/ was attempting to keep the boat into wind and driving rain. We were both soaked. W/ was getting cold.
With the forward awning down we had better control. The dinghy was secure. I took the helm while W/ went below, got a towel to dry off and put on dry cloths and rain gear. After which I dried off and put on my rain parka. While W/ was getting ready, I moved the boat to a new spot. Using the other boats and the depth sounder we identified a place upwind and closer to the reef. Thankfully, one of the things we had wanted in a boat was a good size engine to push her when needed. The 85 hp Perkins lived up to its billing. In 30 kts of wind with a full awning up I was able to maneuver her to a new location.
As W/ came back on deck to take the helm I went to the bow and released the anchor in 30’ of water. Let out 100’ of chain and felt the anchor bite in, swinging the boat into the wind. I let out more chain and secured it at about 175’ of chain with a 20’ snubber on it. That ought to do it. We are now, again, secure.
Of the four boats in the anchorage, two dragged. Ours was one that had to re-anchor to get a solid connection with Mother Earth..
And that is how this day in the life a cruiser went.
This is a reconstruct of my memories. I lost my first post of Pef when I messed up the blog. The blog is correct now, all except this post. So… here goes…
We had planned on getting to Metti Cottages for the holidays. They were across the Halmahera Sea on the N. end of Halmahera. After we had some crappy weather while siting at Gam, it became clear to us that making the passage could be rather thorny. As cruisers we’ve try to avoid schedules. Schedules create problems. Mother Nature abhors cruisers schedules.
We wished for another place to hang for the holidays. Neither of us are religious fanatics. Yet, growing up with Christmas traditions have become embedded in our DNA. I had read of Pef on Facebook. It sounded like a place that would meet our needs. A secure anchorage and holiday celebrations.
We made our way there. Pef has two moorings in their inner harbor. We pulled in. Both were available so we picked one up. After a bit of cleaning up the boat, we put the engine on the dinghy and went to shore. To Explore.
An Indonesian harbor master greeted us at the dock. We had tried to contact Pef a couple of days earlier inquiring about a mooring. But they didn’t have a phone number direct to the island. All their correspondence is via email and Whats app. Their office in Sarong wasn’t much help.
We crossed a mangrove swamp on a rock solid boardwalk without railings. I wouldn’t want to make that walk with any amount of alcohol in my blood! At the main office we met Mei (pronounced May) who was the resort Manager. As she was telling us a little about Pef Maya (the founder – owner) came out and we met her. She had a bit of a sad face. She thought the moorings were a bit too close. they had a reservation and she didn’t know if it would work; Andrew and Donna on Infinity had one reserved. Wow! We knew them and said didn’t think it would be an issue. We chatted some more. I think she was vetting us, she said, “Oh, we did just have a cancellation, we will be able to accomodate you!” Sweet! Thus we were invited and included in their holiday celebrations and festivities.
Later in our trip I had heard that some sailors had taken advantage of the resort. Yacht owners and their kids running rough shod over guests and the grounds. We’re members of the SSCA and the OCC. Both organizations believe, and encourage cruisers to “Leave a Clean Wake”. We are guests not only at the resort but in the country. It is in our long term interests to act like guests.
After our interview, Mei took us on a short tour. The mooring was 20 euros / person (yes a bit high for Indo standards and fair for European standards). But; it did offer a few cruiser friendly incentives: it included laundry service, garbage disposal, coffee and morning snacks, a bit of internet access, and 24 hours security in the harbor.
Few cruisers have a laundry machine aboard. If they do they still use heaps of fresh water. Further, keeping unlaundered items in a pile – they tend to ferment. Yuck. The snacks were cookies and biscuits fresh made every morning. And… they were good. Mei pointed out the trail head is for the mountain (hill) that offers a 360º view of the island. She indicated the path to the heliport; not used since the French Survivor TV show 10 years ago. We chatted at the board with all the employees names and positions. She had to point out the the bar with a large Iron Wood chess set (said they have it for exercise), and restaurant. We met Jessica the marketing guru who lead us here with the Facebook post. We would miss the gathering on Halmahera with some of our other cruiser friends. Pef looked to be a good replacement.
Back at the boat we rested and planned our next day. Foremost on my mind was climbing the mountain and getting the 360 view. At home on the boat the water in the harbor was clear and calm even when the wind blew. Of course between the “mountains’ the winds blew right over the top of us. Our awnings were up, life good.
After brekkie (as the Aussies call it) we headed in for our climb. At the dock the
Dock Master met us again and helped with the dinghy. We traveled through the mangrove forest and located the trailhead to the summit. Up we went. It was only 200 steps or so. 200 steps almost straight up. The resort had been quite thoughtful and where needed there were two ladders. Many of the more tenuous sections had ropes to assist. At the top was a covered wooden structure where we could hang for a bit, enjoy the breeze and the view. We forgot water. Oh well, tomorrow. As we were checking out the view another yacht pulled in. We couldn’t identify if it was True Blue V or Infinity. Yeah, my eyes aren’t what they use to be! Either one would add to the fun.
After descending we saw Craig and Leanne being vetted by Maya. Craig and Leanne aboard True Blue V. Maya seemed surprised we all knew each other. Again that helped in their also being invited to the holiday celebrations. There are only about 20 cruising boats in this area of Indonesia right now. We talked them into doing the mountain climb the following day and then returned back to the boat for some R n R . Rested a bit we went back in and invited Jessica out to the boat. She being a newest member of the management team didn’t know much of the cruising lifestyle and how that might fit into Pef. It was great sharing life stories, she from Germany, working in Pef as a marketing person and we from America looking at the world from the deck of a yacht.
The next day we wore actual shoes for the climb. Flip flops were not the most comfortable or stable on the mountain. Although the previous day two employees were replacing one of the ladders. I noticed one employee had climbed the hill in … bare feet!
Maya was quite generous with the yachts. She invited us to the festivities for the staff and the guests. At one such event we heard they provide massages here! W/ and I just discovered the perfect Xmas gifts for each other. We arranged to have massages the following day – after we snorkeled the house reef. It was suggested we walk the trail to the helipad and enter the water there. The reef was close to shore. We entered the water and snorkeled along the outside of the reef back to the resort. Schools of fish moved about the coral. In any Aquarium shop in the US those schools would have been worth 100’s of thousands of dollars. Moorish Idols, Tangs, a large Sweet Lips, and heaps of Damsels etc . You can check out the video on Raja4Divers home page (about half way down) to get a good sense of what the diving at the resort is like. To top it off, as we reached the resort we came across several Giant Clams. The resort is collecting them and hoping they reproduce. The Giant Clams are becoming endangered in Raja Ampat.
In the afternoon we enjoyed our massages in one of the unused guest cabanas. We relaxed listening to the gentle lapping of the sea along the shore with a gentle warm breeze.
The evening festivities concluded with a gift ceremony for the staff and some guests. Many of the staff had returned to their home island and families for the holidays. They had already received their gifts. Those that remained received them tonight. Maya bragged about each of them as she handed out the gifts. This one had moved to boat crew, this one was now a chief in training, this one… on and on. She was proud of them. And they seemed proud of her and their job at Pef.
Many resorts had closed during Covid and of those many went broke with owners walking away. In Pef, Maya kept all the staff on. She paid them all through Covid. Remember; this is Indonesia, to my knowledge they never had a Covid Stimulus package. With her philosophy, kindness and willingness to pay her staff, the resort was ready to roll when tourism began again. I was impressed with the relationship between her and the staff. She respected them and they her. As a manager / boss she had their backs and they had the resorts back. Everyone of the staff were pleasant and courteous. It was a joy to be with people that cared about each other. I’m not saying everything was “perfect”. It never is, but the direction Pef is taking with the community and their staff, well I admired it.
The resort buys as much local as possible. If they build another cabana, Pef purchases the wood from the local villiges. Seasonal fruit is bought from the local villages . Pef has established relationships with all the villages around them. And what they can’t get from the villages they weekly boat from Sarong. Sarong is where they pick up their guests. As the boat brings guests it also brings supplies. Had we been there longer and another time Maya said we could order supplies and they would bring them out on their boat! How awesome is that? Between Sarong and the N of Raja there are no stores for supplies. Villages have small markets and limited fruits and vegetables. Not enough variety for a cruising boat.
As the evening festivities went on and gifts were given we were surprised when Maya called our names. Not only ours but True Blue V and Infinity. We all received gifts! Pef’s master wood carver crafted them. A real treasure. As the evening wore on our eye lids were dropping. We crossed the mangrove swamp without falling in! The dock master helped us into the dinghy (not that we needed it- but it was low tide). As we motored home while he lit our boat up with a torch. It was late and it was dark .
Christmas Day we lulled around till it was time for dinner. We met more guests and staff. I was amazed that many of the guests we met have visited the resort multiple years. One guest couple had actually been a guest the first year it opened a decade ago. What better way to understand the quality of a resort by how many guests actually return and how often. The resort had a holiday dinner and we were lucky to be invited. And the desert, well the desert was really, really grand. As the evening wore on Mei told us that if we needed any stores for the boat we should ask. If they had them in their food locker we could buy any that we felt we needed. Like Mana from Heaven! I don’t know if they would do this for all cruisers all the time. As the holiday was at its peak, Pef was shutting down for two weeks. Every couple of months the resort shuts down for a deep clean. Every unit, every building, every piece of dive gear, everything; gets cleaned. And then off they go again.
From my understanding it is not “cheap” staying there. They have various packages for enjoying the water and just lulling about in the tropics. Get on their email list if interested, sign up down near the bottom of the page. But, and this is important for the younger set, they have at times had two weeks for one specials for the under 30’s crowd. So take a look at their web page and scroll down to the bottom, get on their email list. And maybe if you want something special make a reservation. But beware, in 2023 you will be on a wait list, they are already booked out!
We regretted leaving on Boxing Day. The resort was running their remaining guests back to Sarong and we headed N to Equator Island; Kawe. We were working our way to Wayag, said to be the pinnacle of Raja Ampat.
We came to Kaimana with the desire to become a tourist. We don’t usually cruise as a tourist. At times, circumstances demand we switch roles. There were Whale Sharks around Kaimana, Indonesia. They have are a fascinating animal. Neither shark, nor whale, they are slow lazy swimmers and a big, big mouth.
Kaimana is a little out of the way, and a bit out of the cyclone area.
For us, more for me; the sad part was that this time of year it is the doldrums. A period of no wind. Whale Sharks don’t care. I did. We motored the entire way. Motored from Tual. The motoring was one thing, fueling up was another.
Elysium holds around a 1,000 litres of diesel and I don’t relish the idea of getting too low. The last time we topped up was in Cairns, QLD. In Cairns we didn’t get to the top. Here, in a place that rarely services any yachts (but a lot of fishing boats) we needed fuel. There are two challenges in that regard. First Indonesia has different qualities of Diesel. Solar which is a low-low quality country subsidised fuel and the higher quality Dexlite. Of course the Dexlite costs more. And to make life more interesting, there is no, and I mean zero, diesel available on the dock for yachts. And the dock will not accommodate our boat. With the tide and dock height we would have damage. The method in Kaimana is to jerry jug it. We could use about 300 more litres. We don’t need 300 but that would fill us up. We settled for 120 liters. Now, if you are not Superman, or an Avenger, carrying 120 litres of diesel doesn’t work well into my lifestyle. We needed help. In a country where there are few similarities between our mother tongue and theirs, we bring out the best of charades. That and an app translator.
Infinity and Sand Groper found a Taxi that took them to a station nearby. When we tried to take a taxi to the station we were being driven clear across town, across the harbor, to the farthest point from out boat. We aborted near the Pentamax fuel terminal. W/ suggested; better described as insisted, we go talk to them. Again with Charades and an Indonesian English translate app we arranged to met two employees in the afternoon. We would bring our Jerry jugs. They would take us to fill up with Dexlite and 10 liters of gasoline. At he terminal we waited and played charades with the guard till the employees arrived. We were lucky. Rosi Li and Ronald drove us to an area out of town past the Airport for Fuel. Rosi Li was concerned if we had enough money. The total came to 2.2 million Indonesian dollars. We had enough. And in air-conditioned comfort they actually hauled us back to the wharf where we had left our dinghy. We added the fuel to out empty tank, treated it and returned 4 containers we had borrowed from another cruiser. That completed we were ready for our Whale Shark adventure.
The following day another set of cruisers had asked about fuel at the hardware store. The store right outside the port. The owner called his son who picked them up. The station was about 1 km up the hill they filled some more jerry jugs. I was impressed and amazed at how close it really was. Our last day in Kiamana W/ and I walked up the hill and added 10 more liters to our gasoline inventory for our dinghy. After which, now that I knew exactly where it was, I added it to the Zulu app for other cruisers.
One of the most important skills of a cruiser is to seek advice from other cruisers. Local knowledge is KING! Cruising guides are good. Yet by the time they are published and bought there is out of date info. The Zulu app fills that gap. In whatever area you cruise, others who have gone before have uploaded places to go, how to get there, what services are available, and cool anchor spots. Don’t leave home without Zulu! As always, I have no financial investment or any other relationship to the company. W/ and I do find the app helpful.
We left on a rising tide. If our calculations worked out we would be flushed out of Thursday Island with at times 4 kts of current behind us. Indeed, that is what happened!
Leaving Australia was bitter sweet. We were here almost 3 years. We made many friends, witnessed a few once in a century events, and upgraded the boat for the next chapters of our cruise.
Our friends will be missed and we hope to cross paths with them somewhere down the line. The century events such as the Australian fires will not be missed. Nor the rain bombs that plagued the Queensland and New South Wales states. And of course, Covid which shut down so much world travel.
In our ride out of the Australian summit the winds were exactly what we hoped for, the seas not so much. Mother Nature cooperated with a breeze rarely breaking 20 kts. But, Neptune found another way to torture us. There is not much room in the Torres Straits for ocean swell to squeak by. I wondered how nothing seemed to matter in how the seas developed here. We had swell from the NE and then from the Gulf of Carpentaria south of us. Any whoever has studied “waves” understands that the height troughs are additive. Thus if you put a 2’ wave on top of a 2’ sea; where they cross will be 4’. That is the crest. And the opposite is true. If you put a -2’ trough with a second 2’ trough you get a 4’ bottom. The worst is that the waves and seas don’t combine in a nice, comfortable, easy motion; but randomly. The boat is thrown about in odd ways. While tolerable, the motion does make sleeping during off watch times less than idilic.
The good news was that as we were moving away from the Torres Strait and the Gulf of Carpentaria. The seas and swell were easing. The wind moderating to a steady 10-15 kts. We knew then the seas were soon to settle. And the boat motion would follow.
We were making good time. Our first evening we had a lovely lightening show N of us over Papua New Guinea (PNG) and another S over Australia. The good news about lightening offshore is that you can see it 100’s of miles away. The bad news is that you can see it. On a boat in the middle of the ocean, lightening is not fun to have around. One of the fears I had of leaving for Indonesia late in the season was that we would have no wind (Doldrums) and be traveling through the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). The ITCZ is where lightening calls home. That zone after all is a junction between two weather systems. Our luck held out. All we had from the two lightening shows was a lovely tropical rain shower in the early morning. The wind settled down and became a breeze, the boat’s washed, and we continued on our way.
While every sailor loves wind at their back we are no different. Our course and the wind direction were exactly the opposite. Winds at our back. For sailors that is good news. The minor issue is that while at our back the winds changed during the day from 135º at night to 90º during the day. Each day we needed to gybe the boat a few times to keep traveling in the right direction. Much like walking with a blister, tolerable, just not “fun”.
As the wind and seas settled I decided to fish. Luke and Fumi on s/v Araminta in Lizard Island gave me a hint. To catch Mackerel you must use this particular kind of lure. I didn’t have one. Fumi was ordering some sending them to Thursday Island. Since we would meet up again there I asked her to add two for us. We picked them up in Thursday Island and finally I decided to test their theory. I added it to our new rod and reel we picked up in Gladstone and set about 100’ of line out the back. Set the clicker on and waited. This is how I like to fish. Let the boat do the work, read a book and when we hear the reel ‘zing’ haul it in.
Well for most of the day I never heard a zing. Sometime in the afternoon I checked to see if I had caught some trash on the lure and needed to remove it. W/ “FISH ON”. I noticed we had a fish dragging across the surface of the water. The reel never went through the zing. Had I set the drag
to tight?! It could be the fish tried to swim with us instead of fighting. Anyway, I reeled in a tired fish. Getting it aboard was not easy. I usually just swing it up into the cockpit as taught by my cruising brother Dirk. This one was too big to swing. I couldn’t easily use the pole and the wire leader wanted to cut into my hand. W/ grabbed a pair of leather gloves for me. I reached down and grabbed it by the jaw dragging it through the lifeline and into the cockpit. In the cockpit it began thrashing around as W/ threw an older towel over its head and stood on it. No longer did it thrash around. We made a noose to hang it by the tail, dropped its nose in a bucket and cut the gills to let it bleed out. An hour later I was cleaning a good size Mackerel. 40 plus inches from head to tail. Another hour and we had twenty steaks cut up and in the refrigerator. We added them to the freezer the following day. Whew.
As the days went by and we continued to have wind we settled into a comfortable routine. Light breakfast, Lasagna for lunch and snacks the rest o the day. We divided up the night for watches, slept and read a lot. I started and finished 4 books and W/ read about the same.
Back in Thursday Island we had a bit of luck. We stopped at the Grand Hotel restaurant and had lunch. I had not enjoyed Lasagna for a long time time, ordered it and loved it. A few days later we were there again and asked them if they would sell us a pan of Lasagna. We had done something like this before when we left NZ. They didn’t have any in pans but wold sell us the portions they had already frozen. W/ bought six. This saved heaps of time with meal preparation on our passage. W/ removed one a day from the freezer to the refrigerator, the following day it was ready to heat and eat. It did hit the spot.
We lucked out with the rain and not having a shower every am. But fate threw another curve ball. Fishing fleets, nets and long line bouys. The good news was that most of them had an Automated Identification System (AIS). The bad news was when they showed up on the charting system. It reminded me of science fiction films and attacking aliens in space.The bouys don’t move. We needed to. Further, while they were near a mile apart some had nets. Better to go around them than through them.
When we first began studying our route for this trip I had read that the fishing fleets would be out to around 50 nm. I plotted our course to stay out 60 nm or more. Now we were 80 nm off the coast and coming across the fleets. Yuck!
We maneuvered around all but one. Remember; every once in a while we would see a bouy that didn’t have an AIS marker. There was one bouy that listed its size as 1,300 feet. We suspected a net but had no idea which direction it ran. We sailed by it at about 3 kts. As the bow of our boat came close I saw a string of floats, a net. We coasted right over it, the floats popping up astern of us. With any of the modern racer cruisers they would have caught the net in their rudder. Some people try to put cutters on various parts of their boat below waterline. Fishermen don’t like their nets cut up so some of the newer nets use a wire rope at the surface. A catamaran too would have grabbed the net with any of its 4 below water appendages, two rudders and two sail drives. Snagging a net with ocean all around in the middle of the night would not have been fun! Nope, not at all.
As the week played out, and as predicted the winds eased. The seas followed a day later. That was expected and fine by us. Larger seas than wind creates a lot of work on the boat. Some on the crew too. The swell moves the rigging back and forth as they roll by. As the rig moves the sail loses its drive, not enough wind to hold it out. It goes flat only to be filled back up again when the boat rolls back. Filling up isn’t a nice easy job. Then, as the sail fills again there is a god-awful bang and oft times shaking our rig. Some can noise and shaking can be ameliorated by using a heavy duty pole to keep the sail out. The pole reduces the strain on the rig and sail. For most of the trip we used a pole on our head sail. And as we were sailing 99% of the time straight down wind we never pulled the main sail up.
The last two sailing days were the sweetest. The wind had lightened up such that our heavy duty sail was not doing it’s job. The sail weighed too much and would hang limp. We hauled out our drifter which as the name implies is used when we are close to floating around in the open sea. This sail cloth is super light fabric. It attaches at the top and bottom and a line we refer to as a sheet runs back to the cockpit. She looks alive as the wind breaths into it and moves back and forth slow dancing and pulling us along. We cruised along at 3-4 kts having a wonderful, relaxing, resting day.
The last evening produced another light show, this time to the E of us. All night long we watched lightening dance across the sky. Not until the early morning did we hear the beat of thunder. Thunder tells us that the storm is inside the 10 nm range. It is not a perfect estimate, say 10 nm plus or minus a mile. When we start to hear thunder we count to see how far away it is. Three seconds per km and five seconds per mile. The morning was soon to arrive and we decided rather than attempting to sail into the mess we would lie ahull. We pulled all the sails down, tied the helm over and hung out watching the system pass N of us. We just floated…. aronnd. When the storm had passed our bow and moved far enough away we cranked up the iron genny (our engine) and motored between the two islands, around the top and down into Tual harbor.
And we were damn glad it was daylight. Continuing N we passed 50 or so Fish Attracting Devices (FADs) with a small unlit hut ensconced atop. Running into one of these in the dark would not have made anyone happy. Ironically, while this entire trip to this point we had the wind astern, after the storm system passed the wind was now on our nose. Right out of the N. We rounded the top of Tual and who knew, the wind on our nose continued. Even as we entered the harbour and headed S we had a head wind. Go Figure.
About 2:30 pm local time we anchored with our Quarantine flag up. By 3 pm we had our first official aboard. The day wasn’t over yet!